Interview with John M. Green, author of The Tao Deception

Today we welcome Sydney based author John M. Green to the Boomerang Books blog.

Welcome to the blog John. What can you tell us about your new book The Tao Deception? It’s an eco-political thriller, but what’s it about?the-tao-deception
Thanks Tracey. In The Tao Deception, a rogue Chinese elite – The Ten Brothers – conspire with the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea, to use spine-chilling technology to wipe out the West. Why? They’re committed to cutting dead the rampant global consumerism that’s turning China into the world’s waste dump and destroying the planet. Also, they’re bent on backing China away from its modern “path to prosperity”, U-turning it to its simpler, pre-industrial, rural roots.

Tori Swyft, ex-CIA spy, Aussie surfer and now global corporate wunderkind, is visiting China, working on a mega-merger between Chinese and European tech companies. She unearths the plot and, risking her life, is in a race against the clock to stop it.

What was your inspiration for the main character Tori Swyft?
What inspired Tori Swyft was a glaring literary deficit … the dearth of women as thriller heroes … the lack of female James Bonds. So I decided to create one.

So I’m especially thrilled that you’ve name Tori as ‘THE female James Bond’ in your review over at Carpe Librum.

Like James Bond, Tori’s young, tough and sexy, constantly finding herself in pickles most of us couldn’t possibly extricate ourselves from. But there’s more to Tori than that. This feisty, strong-willed woman carries a PhD in nuclear engineering and a Harvard MBA. People trifle with Tori Swyft at their own risk.

What inspired the threat in The Tao Deception?
On top of writing thrillers, I’m on the board of a global insurance company. Three years ago, when discussing the Top Ten emerging risks for the insurance world, a risk I’d never heard of jumped out at me and grabbed me by the throat.

I won’t say what it is – spoiler alert! – but it’s what The Ten Brothers in The Tao Deception are conspiring to unleash on the world. Experts disagree on how likely this risk is in real life. But if it did happen, the outcome would be catastrophic … a US Congressional Committee says that 200 million Americans would die within 12 months … from starvation, disease and societal collapse.future-crimes

What are you reading at the moment?
I’m juggling four books right now, three as research for my next Tori Swyft novel:
1. Eric Siblin’s The Cello Suites, about J.S. Bach and Catalonian cellist, Pablo Casals
2. Marc Goodman’s Future Crimes – Inside the Digital Underground
3. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia
4. Clive James’ Gate of Lilacs – A verse commentary on Proust – for its sheer delight (but also for Tori – see below)

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves at home?
How about a 1st edition of J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, his second and arguably scarcest book? A slim volume, it’s heavily annotated by a notable mid-20th century American editor, critic and author, Maxwell Geismar. His notes give a fascinating glimpse into the mind and working methods of a major literary identity.

In the margins of one story, Geismar’s blue biro scratches this out: ‘This hero is better than Holden Caulfield of Rye … This is really the best story! … Most authentic … Good? … So far.’

john-m-green-nov-16
Author John M. Green

What book have you always meant to read but never got around to?
Like Tori Swyft – who’s always trying to read this one at the beach – it’s Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. A journalist once asked Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam if he’d ever read it, and he answered, ‘I’ve glanced at it extensively.’ That’s my approach too.

That’s hilarious, I must remember that phrase (I’ve glanced at it extensively). In your bio, I noticed that you sit on the Council of the National Library of Australia. What does that involve?
It’s been one of the most exciting boards I’ve had the privilege to sit on. Sadly for me, my term just expired. The NLA is a haven for Australia’s heritage. Two of the most exciting NLA projects I got to contribute to, in a small way, are Trove – the NLA’s astonishing on-line research resource which many authors use extensively – and the massive project to digitise the Library, to make it accessible on-line to all Australians, no matter where they live.

What’s next? Will Tori Swyft be back?
Tori Swyft is definitely on her way back, taking readers to Barcelona, Spain. She’s already four chapters into her next thriller, and the crisis she’s up against has got me sweating about how she’s going to survive.

Anything else you’d like to add?born-to-run
As well as Tori Swyft, I also adore a lead character from an earlier novel Born to Run, my US President Isabel Diaz – the first woman to ‘really’ to win the White House. Isabel had a cameo in my first Tori Swyft novel, The Trusted, and gets a far bigger role in The Tao Deception.

But I’m going to let you into a secret … while writing The Tao Deception, I recalled how much you raved about Isabel’s deaf stepson, Davey, when you reviewed Born to Run way back in 2011. Remembering that prompted me to bring Davey back in The Tao Deception. And I’m glad because he adds a crucial dimension to the story.  So thank you, Tracey! Davey’s return is down to you!

Wow, that’s amazing, what a thrill! I love it when authors listen to feedback from readers and to know I had a part in bringing Davey back is so exciting. Thanks John for sharing your secret and for joining us here on the Boomerang Books blog.

Click here to buy The Tao Deception.

Doodles and Drafts – In conversation with Tania McCartney over tea!

Tania McCartney March 2016 cropTania McCartney is no stranger to the world of Kids’ Literature. Her knowledge and ability to produce entertaining, endearing and enduring picture books is nothing short of remarkable and now sitting comfortably in her enviable arsenal of accreditations, is a re-discovered gift – illustration.

Sumptuously rich in detail and stuffed with enough iconic charm to make both Banjo Paterson and Con the Fruiterer feel at home, her first self-illustrated picture book, Australia: Illustrated delivers a (very satisfying) slice of all things Aussie to an audience who might still remember what a frog cake is as well as those young enough to regard the Wheel of Brisbane as their first Ferris wheel ride.

Australia IllustratedIt is a magnificent compendium of facts, landmarks, foods, cultures, flora, fauna, natural wonders, celebrities and attractions playfully illustrated in Tania’s unique, considered hand. Her drawings do more than just tell a story and describe a caption. They fill my visual soul. New South Wales’s Snowy Mountain region is resplendent with wild silver Brumbies (skiiing, horse riding and snowboarding as it were!) for example, revealing Tania’s cheeky take on life and no doubt, her own personal reflections of a land she clearly adores.

Her affection is contagious. From the divinely cloth-bound cover and very first end pages, clean and devoid of the congestion of civilization (a nod to the pre-settlement days of Australia perhaps), to each State and Territories’ four to five page expose of their specific peculiarities, Australia: Illustrated draws the reader in and, sublimely, educates and entertains along the way. The final end pages, a testament to the diversity and wonder that fills this wide brown land (with green bits, girt by sapphire seas) we call, home.

Today, we leave the draft table for a pair of comfy armchairs, a delicious cup of tea and a few precious moments with the gifted creator behind EK Book’s newest non-fiction picture book release, Australia: Illustrated.

Welcome, Tania. It’s great to finally spend some ‘virtual’ time with you.

So lovely to visit, Dim!

Your very first self-illustrated picture book, Australia Illustrated, is out any moment. Has this been a dream come true?

In a word: yes!

Have you been suffering heart palpitations? I know I’d be more anxious that than

Yes. How did you know??

I could hear them all the way up here in Brisbane.

I’m not surprised. They’re pretty thunderous.

Has this book been a bucket-list kind of thing?

Yes and no. It was more of a meant-to-be than a bucket-list-thing, though now it’s been ticked off my bucket-list, I’m happy it got onto that list!

It has actually just been a long-buried seed of an idea but it may not have even grown if the circumstances hadn’t been right. There was a grant I wanted to apply for, I needed a contract to do so, my publisher just happened to think the idea was fabulous at the time (this changes, as you know!) and I got a contract the next day.

You’re kidding?!

I know! If only all contracts were like that! This was a little scary, though, because the idea was quite ethereal at the time. I mean, I knew it would unfold okay… and it did. But I did it all the wrong way.

What do you mean?

I basically winged it. I had an outline, of course, but the content was pretty much an organic process. I was SO lucky to have this kind of opportunity. And I did the cover first. I mean, who does the cover first?

I don’t much about the illustrative process, but that does sound a little dotty.

SO dotty. But it worked because that cover was one of my favourite things to create, and it set the scene for the style and layout of the entire book. I highly recommend up-ending processes!

Are you proud of thi047 qld daintrees book?

I am for the fact that I finished it. It took a year and contains over 1000 hand-drawn images over 96 pages. Half of the finished pages are digitally illustrated, too, so it was a lot of work and I was also in learning mode at the time (re-learning my illustration skills and also learning digital skills—I basically learned as I went).

I’m also proud of it because it’s my first self-illustrated book and I think first self-illustrated books take a lot of courage. Like, a lot. It’s scary because I’ve had years to get used to writing criticism, but illustration criticism is a whole other colour on the palette.

So, my nerves are on standby, for sure—and I have to consistently tell myself I created this book for me, no one else—and that if kids and adults happen to take pleasure in it, that will please me very, very much. In fact, ALL creators should create books for themselves first and foremost. If we created them for other people, we’d never enjoy it as much or do our best work. And once our books are published, they become someone else’s anyway, so it’s nice to hang onto ownership during production!

Oh gosh, Dim, this tea is so good.

Thanks! Isn’t it divine? You’ve written several books about Australia. Will there be more?

Probably not. I do have ideas for books about Australian people (biographic), plants and animals but they won’t be Australia-centric, if that makes sense.

I don’t know why I’ve written so many books on Australia. It’s not a conscious decision. Perhaps it’s because the world is full of so much negativity right now—I fully realise and accept that our country (any country) is far from perfect, but it just feels so nice to celebrate what’s good here sometimes. And there’s so much that’s good. Australia Illustrated is a celebration of w007 au beautifulhat’s good.

Hear hear! What brought you the greatest pleasure when creating Australia Illustrated?

So much. The creative freedom. The ability to play and allow things to unfold. I know it’s not realistic, but it would be incredible if all books could be created in this way! It’s just so much fun. I loved relearning skills and meeting my characters and learning so much about this country that I never knew.

I loved the digital illustration and the layout and design. I also loved doing the finishing art in Photoshop. Creating the fonts was fun.

How did you do that?

With an app called iFontMaker. It’s fabulous. You can get so creative. You can even create fonts for your kids, using their handwriting.

Sounds fascinating, I’d love to give it a go.

You must. I also loved pulling the pages together. It’s so satisfying.

So, hang on, you did quite a bit for this book. Not just writing and illustrating?

027 nsw sydney ferriesI did heaps. I researched, wrote, fact-checked, drew, painted, did digital illustration and mono-printing, scanning, touching up, photography, fonts, layout, design, typography, cover layout and design—all to print-ready PDF. I LOVE doing all this. It’s so satisfying and skills-building. Then I had the wonderful Mark Thacker from Big Cat Design take all the PDFs and whack them in InDesign for the printer.

And my gorgeous publisher Anouska Jones was my editor and second eyes and ears, and I had a group of other eyes and ears, too, and then there was the team at Exisle and our printing coordinator Carol and publicist Alison and all the fabulous book reps and all the wonderful friends and colleagues who helped me authenticate things and help me out with research.

I have an entire page dedicated to thank yous! I also had the backing of the ACT Government—artsACT—for their grant to help produce this book.

So while I did a lot, I certainly didn’t do it alone. No one ever does it alone.

Gosh, we have an amazing bunch of people in this industry.

We do. I feel privileged to be part of it. This really is great tea, Dim.

Of course it is, it’s from Queensland! What’s next for you, Tania?

Well, I’ve just come out of a long rest! I took a lot of winter off, other than ongoing obligations and a little bit of production on some upcoming titles.

 Oooh – can you share them with us?

COVER FINAL smilecryfullcover-smallWell, one is a sequel to Smile Cry with Jess Racklyeft. The other is a follow-up to This is Captain Cook with Christina Booth—and we’re also in the middle of another picture book for the National Library. Tina Snerling and I have been working on books 6 and 7 for the A Kids’ Year series.

I’ve been planning my illustration style for my first illustration commission with the National Library and I’ve been working on a non-fiction pitch for them, too, which I’ll illustrate. And I’ve been finalising a junior fiction manuscript after talks with a gorgeous publisher. Oh—and just like you would, I have several thousand other little bits and ideas floating around.

Yes, something I can relate 100% to! But would you have it any other way?

No! Well, yes—I really needed that time out after Australia Illustrated. It was an enormous amount of work. 96 pages!! So happy to have my energy and mojo back now, though.

Mojo back is good! Tania, thanks so much for stopping by today. I’ve really enjoyed the chat.

Me, too, Dim! And thanks for the tea!

The kettle is always on…

This is more than a picture book, more than a resource; Australia Illustrated is a meaningful, beautiful, thoughtful, piece of art.

Order Tania’s, Australia: Illustrated, here.

Australia Illustrated Launch PosterFollow all the excitement of her Virtual Launch this week with reveals, sneak peeks, more interviews and giveaways, here.

EK Books November 2016

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

 

Review – Noisy Nights – on tour with Fleur McDonald

Noisy NightsIf you like novels of the rolling outback variety with plenty of page-turning drama, a sprinkle of bucolic romance and a good dose of dust and hardship, then you are likely familiar with one of Australia’s leading rural writers, Fleur McDonald. Her litany of outback, female orientated sagas constitute engrossing adult reads. However, not content with being a bestselling author of adult fiction, McDonald has now set her sights on the fickle world of writing for children. Noisy Nights is the first picture book penned by McDonald and illustrated by Annie White depicting farmyard fun for pre-schoolers.

The premise is simple; Farmer Hayden is desperate for a good night’s sleep. Little wonder after working hard on his property all day long. Tucked under his cosy doona, beneath a darken sky and shining stars, everything appears ideal for sound slumber, except it is ‘so noisy outside his window.’

Apparently, the animals of Farmer Hayden’s farm are very vocal night. Now anyone who has ever spent a night in the country or even just camped in his or her own back yard will agree nights are not so silent. The cold stillness of a night bereft of the noisy pollution of city living seems to magnify each and every sound made by unseen creatures, as is the case for poor old Farmer Hayden.

Night after night, dogs bark, cows moo, horses nicker, and crickets chirp. Frequent pleas for quiet fall on deaf ears until defeated and fatigued, Farmer Hayden submits to his insomnia and spends the next night sitting outside on the veranda. He’d rather watch the noisy choir rather than suffer the torture of listening to them.

As predicted, thFleur McDonalde dogs bark, the cows moo, the crickets chirp and so on but the sheep dance to a different song this night, or rather, they jump to it. Finally, mesmerised by them, something amazing happens. Could this be the beginning of no more noisy nights?

McDonald pulls off her first attempt at writing for children with uncomplicated honesty. Predictive, repetitive text creates many opportune moments for young readers to not only bolster their vocabulary base but for them to indulge in interactive story telling with whomever they are reading with, as well. The narrative is enjoyable and supports common barnyard and animal connections as well as the old familiar maxim that ‘counting sheep to get to sleep’ really does work.NoisyNightsBlog Tour[1]

In addition, White’s well-loved illustrations emphasise the farmyard fun making this common dilemma instantly recognisable for even the most citified child.

Noisy Nights is soft-hued and gentle in its appearance and content making it a beautiful picture book to curl up with when your little one is ready for a good night’s sleep.

For more reviews and information about Fleur McDonald, visit her other Blog Tour stops.

Noisy Nights is available for purchase now, here.

New Frontier Publishing August 2016

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DOODLES AND DRAFTS with Wendy Orr on the inspiration behind Dragonfly Song

Dragonfly SongHang onto to your bronze daggers as you are in for ‘a riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure’ –  we have the remarkable Wendy Orr at the draft table today, escorting us on her Blog Tour for her stunning new novel, Dragonfly Song. And like all terrific stories, there is usually an even more fascinating story behind it; how it came to light, what energies and events conspired to motivate its first heartbeat. Today, Wendy shares her inspiration with us.

Orr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gould

 

Welcome Wendy! Tell us, what was the inspiration for Dragonfly Song?

Sometimes it’s easy to see where an idea’s inspiration has come from. Sometimes it’s not – and sometimes some of the things that inspire it don’t end up in the story. Dragonfly Song is one of those mysteries.

Certainly one thread comes from childhood and teenage reading of Greek myths and Mary Renault’s retelling of the Theseus myth, The King Must Die. (There are many stories about Theseus, a king of Athens with a typically complicated hero life. However he is best known for being one of seven youths and seven maidens sent as a tribute to King Minos of Crete. Minos sent them into a labyrinth to be devoured by the half-man, half-bull monster, the Minotaur – but luckily, Theseus defeated the Minotaur instead of being eaten.)

04Then, about twenty-five years ago, I dreamed about a white robed priestess leading a long torchlight procession up a steep green volcanic mountain.  As a story grew around the dream, I started reading up on the intriging civilization that flourished in Crete around four thousand years ago.  The Minoans seem to have worshipped a mother goddess and been ruled by a priestess until they were taken over by the warlike Mycenaeans of mainland Greece. Their palaces had grand court02yards and stairways, flushing toilets, lightwells, and painted frescoes on walls, ceilings and floors. They had beautiful art, gold and jewellery; images of priestesses holding snakes and of young men and women leaping over the backs of giant bulls. What if these bull-leaping games had inspired the original myth of Theseus?

Although the rather melodramatic novel I wrote then was, luckily, never published, the images of that world never left me. Eventually I started playing with the idea of a completely new story set in the same era.

It started to take shape on a 2010 visit to New Delhi. Culture shock can be a great inspiration: new sounds and smells; beautiful buildings and overwhelming poverty. Home again, doodling with a fingerpaint app, I sketched a girl with a sad twisted mouth and tangled black curls. This wasn’t the direction I’d expected, but one evening in my tai chi class, the form of the story appeared in a luminescent blue bubble –  and no, I can’t explain it exactly what I mean by that, but it was powerful enough to bring me to tears. The next day I saw a dragonfly, the exact same colour as the bubble.

And dragonflies kept on appearing whenever I made a significant decision or saw something that helped to shape the story:  finding an offcut of chipped flint on a Danish island; visiting the mysterious deep blue source of a French river that would have seemed even more mysterious and holy in ancient timeDragonflySongBlogTourGraphics…

Ah the synchronicity of life…Thank you, Wendy!

Watch Wendy explain more, here. Catch up with her again as she continues her DragonFly Song Adventure and tour.

Stick around for my full review of Dragonfly Song coming soon. Meantime you can get it now, here, if you can’t wait to read it first!

Allen & Uwin June 2016

 

 

 

 

Review – One Would Think the Deep

One Would Think the DeepIf you thought Claire Zorn’s first two YA novels, The Sky So Heavy and The Protected, were brilliant, you’re going to need double tinted Ray Burns for her latest masterpiece, One Would Think the Deep.

Zorn manages to mould rough edged, grit-encrusted reality into exquisite accomplished prose with the mere flick of her fingers. One Would Think the Deep is a story that surges with emotion, confrontation, and ultimately, hope.

If I were to reflect on Sam’s story too deeply, I’d be overwhelmed with the melancholy of it, of him but this is not a tale of woe and hopelessness, in spite of its gently grim beginning. Its sincerity and swagger from the opening lines swept me along and held me afloat until the very end.

Shortly after one fateful New Year’s Eve, Sam Hudson finds himself suddenly orphaned, teetering on the precipice of shock, grief, graduation and homelessness. My stomach filled with sick ache for him as he called his Aunty Lorraine to inform her of his mother’s premature death.

With nothing more than his skateboard and a collection of 90s something mixed tapes (he listens to Jeff Buckley on his Walkman with the same obsession I did to ABBA), Sam lingers uncomfortably in the small coastal town of Archer Point with his aunty and cousins, Minty and Shane. He is caught in a turbulent no man’s land of past boyhood memories and buried family secrets, incapable of finding his fit. Grief and despair are his most loyal companions, second only to his cousin, Minty with whom he spent a chunk of his childhood.

Minty is the laWavetter day version of Taj Burrows, young, gifted, a surfing legend amongst the local crowds. His laconic life views and ability to work any wave endears Sam to the ocean. But it takes a few months before his newfound surf therapy begins to take effect. Despite the elegant monastic simplicity of ‘a life in the water’, Sam’s life continues its complicated hurtle toward (his) self-destruction. He pines for a past he doesn’t fully understand, yearns for the affections of a girl he can barely speak to and is constantly at crushing odds with most of his family members including, Nana. Sam’s emotional dichotomy of good boy battling the bad within is fascinating and heart wrenching at times. It’s impossible to dislike him because of what you feel for him feeling so much.

Sam’s story of hurt and healing is beautifully rendered. Even the most vicious of emotional situations are depicted with refined tenderness so that I found myself weeping emphatically throughout, not just at the end where you’d expect a need for tissues.

Each character is drawn with knife-edge sharpness. Each speaks with a clarity that never dulls. Every sense is heightened by the wrenching complexity of the lives of this very inconsequential, simple group of ordinary individuals. And it’s not just Sam who is damaged and vunerable. Each is noticeably flawed or at least weighed down by their own limitations to a point of exquisite confusion. I loved them all.

It’s not the surf, time, or chance or even family that ultimately saves Sam in as much as they all conspired to also undo him.  It’s that old chestnut love, which I believe is the true nucleus of One Would Think the Deep (the moments between Gretchen and Sam are incomparable).The ability to surf the ‘glistening wake’ of your leviathan fears and laugh about the results with people who love you is ultimately the key to surviving the ride.

If you are experiencing loss and your soul feels displaced, if you have a passion for the waves or you are still in love with the sounds of the 90s, then you must submerse yourself in this book.  I can almost hear Jeff Buckley crooning Hallelujah

UQP June 2016

Claire ZornStick around…in the coming weeks I’ll be chatting more deeply with Claire about her latest work and how she developed such impressive surfing lingo.  Meantime, you can find all her great reads, here.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Release of Beauty’s Kingdom by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Long before the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, Anne Rice was writing a raunchy series of erotic novels in the 1980s under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure. The Sleeping Beauty series contained the following three novels: The Claiming of Sleeping BeautyBeauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release. The trilogy has been very successful for Anne Rice, and in the 1990s, she revealed her identity as the author behind the pen name A.N. Roquelaure.Beauty's Kingdom A.N. Roquelaure

The latest and most exciting news is that a new book has just been released, and Beauty’s Kingdom is the fourth in the series and the first in 30 years. Before I tell you about the latest release, let me give you a brief overview (or reminder) of the series in case you haven’t come across it before. And if the erotica genre is not for you, then click here for some art therapy to cleanse your mind, and I’ll bid you farewell.

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is certainly not your typical fairytale, nor is it appropriate for children. Beauty is woken from her 100 year sleep, not with a kiss from a handsome prince, but with copulation. The prince takes her to his kingdom and in gratitude for waking her from her spell, Beauty is trained to become a plaything and sex slave. Don’t worry though, Beauty enjoys her encounters and falls passionately in love with a male slave. The sex is submissive and features elements of BDSM and pony play.

In Beauty’s Punishment, Beauty is punished for her affair with a fellow slave and is sold at auction. She is purchased by an innkeeper and captures the attention of the Captain of the Guard, who takes over her ‘education in love, cruelty, dominance, submission and tenderness.’ At the end of the book, Beauty and several other slaves are kidnapped and sent to serve in the palace of the Sultan.

In Beauty’s Release, Beauty finds herself in a new realm and a prisoner within a harem belonging to an Eastern Sultan. As the title suggests, she does escape her predicament and marry, but to tell you any more would be a spoiler. As the blurb says: ‘Anne Rice makes the forbidden side of passion a doorway into the hidden regions of the psyche and the heart in this final volume of the classic Sleeping Beauty trilogy,’ and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Throughout the Sleeping Beauty series, themes of desire, discipline, pleasure, pain and surrender are all explored, and the writing is evocative and erotic.

Beauty’s Kingdom is the latest release, and is set 20 years after the events at the end of Beauty’s Release. Other than that, I don’t know much more, but I can’t wait to read it.

Review – Thelma the Unicorn

We’re all familiar with the theme of acceptance and being content with whom and what we are. It’s been relayed a thousand ways, right. But have you ever discovered self-worth with the aid of a carrot? Thelma has.

Thelma the Unicorn Aaron Blabey’s dazzling new picture book, Thelma the Unicorn not only deals with this theme in a fresh, clean, pink unicorny way but it has a sparkly front cover to boot; guaranteeing extra eye-appeal.

Thelma is a little ordinary pony who yearns for loftier heights. She dreams of being a prancing, pampered unicorn, the sort that never goes unnoticed. She believes this will elevate her into special-dom.

Her best mate, Otis tries to convince her otherwise. ‘You’re perfect as you are,’ he insists. But Thelma isn’t having a bar of it. When she spots a carrot on the ground, ideas of grandeur and transformation take serious hold and after a truck incident involving pink paint and glitter, she reinvents herself as, Thelma the Unicorn.

A shimmering star is born Thelm illo spreadas she sashays before a world that quickly becomes obsessed with her glamour. Intoxicated with her newfound fame, Thelma laps up the attention.

However, with great recognition often comes diminished privacy as Thelma soon discovers. Adoration rapidly turns into possession and Thelma’s life just as wildly slides out of her control. Until that is when one night she can no longer stand the isolation of fame and makes yet another life-altering decision.

Aaron BlabeyI truly love Blabey’s rendition of this tried and tested theme. The lilting rhyming text lopes along at a much more satisfying pace than Pig the Pug did for me (apologies to any Pug fanatics). It is a real pleasure to read.

I have always been a fan of Blabey’s bulbous-eyed human depictions as well, but really enjoyed the simple, long-lashed beauty of Thelma and Otis, who sit harmoniously alongside his quirky human character illustrations.

Tongue in cheek humour pops up regularly in the text and illustrations throughout Thelma’s foray into fame-dom, which helps to point out to young readers that all things that glitter are not necessarily that attractive in the long run and it’s okay being who you are even without a horn stuck on your head. Thelma the Unicorn is the perfect kind of ‘special’ to share with three-year-olds and above.

Feel good and funny.

Out this month and available, here.

Scholastic Press February 2015

 

Anne Rice and The Vampire Chronicles

I’m a huge fan of Anne Rice, and her novel Interview With The Vampire is one of my favourite books of all time. Published in 1976, Interview With The Vampire stands the test of time, even surviving a film adaptation in 1994 starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas. The book was the first in what would become The Vampire Chronicles, a series of now 12 books, with the latest, Prince Lestat just released.

With this new release, the first in more than 10 years, I thought it was a good time to take a retrospective look at the series and hopefully inspire a few of you to pick up a book by Anne Rice, if you haven’t done so before.Interview With The Vampire book cover Anne Rice

The Vampire Chronicles series of books in order of year published:

Book 1. Interview With The Vampire (1976)
Interview With The Vampire is where it all started, so, what’s it about? The vampire of the title is Louis, and he tells his life story (all 200 immortal years worth) to a young reporter. Made into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt for a companion in 1791, Louis’ life takes on many unexpected twists and turns across the decades and themes of love, companionship, loneliness, betrayal, suffering, revenge, horror, value of human life and immortality are all present.

Louis finds that he is tired of being immortal but at the end of the interview, the reporter asks to be made into a vampire, obviously having learned nothing from Louis’ personal story and infuriating Louis beyond belief.

Book 2. The Vampire Lestat (1985)
As the title suggests, the second novel in the series is the story of Lestat de Lioncourt, as he narrates his own life story. He was given the Dark Gift by Magnus. He later meets Armand (see Book 6) who tells Lestat he was made into a vampire by a very old vampire called Marius. Lestat becomes fixated on finding Marius to ask him questions about the history and origins of their kind. He does get answers (no spoilers here) and by the 1980s (time of publishing) Lestat is living life as a rockstar vampire.

Book 3. The Queen of the Damned (1988)
Following on from The Vampire Lestat is The Queen of the Damned, the third in the series (also made into a film). Akasha is the mother of all vampires and the Queen of the Damned and has been ‘woken up’ by Lestat after sleeping for 6,000 years. The reporter, Louis and Lestat are back and find that Akasha has her own agenda. We learn how the mother and father of vampires were created, and Akasha threatens to destroy all vampires.

Book 4. The Tale of the Body Thief (1992)
Lestat is depressed and lonely and takes great risks which almost cost him his immortal life. The body thief of the title is Raglan James who offers to switch bodies with Lestat. Lestat’s relationship with David Talbot (Head of the Talamasca Caste) is explored and he eventually reunites with Louis.

Book 5. Memnoch the Devil (1995)
In one of my favourite novels in the series, Memnoch the Devil, Lestat is approached by the Devil (calling himself Memnoch) and is offered a job of sorts.

Memnoch ‘takes Lestat on a whirlwind tour of Heaven and Hell and retells of the entirety of history from his own point of view in an effort to convince Lestat to join him as God’s adversary. In his journey, Memnoch claims he is not evil, but merely working for God by ushering lost souls into Heaven.’ (Source: WikipediaMemnoch the Devil ‘reinterprets biblical stories to create a complete history of Earth, Heaven and Hell that fit neatly with the history of vampires given in The Queen of the Damned.’ (Source: Wikipedia)

This is a book to make you re-think everything you know, consider life after death and our purpose on the planet and is one of my favourite books by Anne Rice.

Book 6. The Vampire Armand (1998)
In Book 6, we learn more about Armand’s back story, first featured in Interview With The Vampire. Telling his life story to vampire David Talbot, we learn Armand was born 500 years ago and was living and painting in a monastery before being kidnapped by slave traders and later purchased by the vampire Marius. There’s a lot of sex and sexual references in this novel, and when Armand is given the Dark Gift there is a repeat of the theme only to feed on evildoers and the struggle between good and evil.

Book 7. Merrick (2000)
Merrick Mayfair (of the title) is a witch, and features in the Mayfair Witches series also by Anne Rice. Louis, Lestat and David Talbot are back in Book 7 and the novel contains the backstory of Merrick’s relationship with David as well as her yearning for the Dark Gift.

Book 8. Blood and Gold (2001)
Another of my favourite novels of all time by Anne Rice, is Book 8 in The Vampire Chronicles, Blood and Gold. The reason I love it so much is the amount of art and history that is featured. Essentially, it’s the story of Marius.

Book 9. Blackwood Farm (2002)
Book 9 is unusual in that it introduces an entirely new character in Quinn Blackwood, a young boy haunted by a nasty spirit he calls Goblin. Quinn seeks help from Lestat who then contacts Merrick when he can’t rid the boy of the spirit.

Book 10. Blood Canticle (2003)
Quinn is back in Book 10, Blood Canticle, a story narrated by Lestat. Quinn is in love with Mona, a Mayfair Witch and Lestat has a love interest of his own. Mona is dying and Lestat turns her into a vampire to save her.Prince Lestat book cover Anne Rice

Book 11. Prince Lestat (2014)
Fans have been waiting more than a decade, but all the key characters are back in the newly released Prince Lestat, the latest book in The Vampire Chronicles. Apparently the vampire world is in crisis and their only hope of survival is our beloved Prince Lestat. (I can’t wait to read it).

Book 12. Blood Paradise (expected in 2015)
Said to be a sequel to Prince Lestat.

I hope this summary has given you a reading pathway into this series, and I’d love to hear from readers already in love with Anne Rice’s Lestat and other characters. It’s not hard to believe that in November 2008, The Vampire Chronicles had sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, and I’m sure that number will continue to increase with new books 11 and 12.

Enjoy!

Review – Sylvia

SylivaLike many, I have a vegie plot. It’s small and handy, full of kitchen herbs and beans mostly. It’s sustaining too albeit not so much for me, but to a host of garden creepers, crawlers and sliders. Long ago, I succumbed to the ‘live and let live’ theory, having exhausted beer and egg shell supplies to wage further battles against one of the most sluggishly sinister of backyard pests, the garden snail. Sylvia, the second picture book by author illustrator, Christine Sharp suitably celebrates my life style choice.

Sylvia is a tiny terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusc aka garden variety snail. She inhabits the gigantic vegie garden of Simon Green with whom she is smitten beyond reason. She adores Simon, her love for him running deeper than her predilection for his ‘buttery beans and luscious lettuces’. Alas, the object of her ravenous desire sees only the result of her absent-minded obsession: ‘munched mushrooms and holey kale’, which for Simon amounts to the unforgivable wilful destruction of his market stall sales.

Sylvia illos 1He is determined to stomp out the perpetrator. Sylvia slogs on downhearted but undeterred. She finally hits upon a priceless piece of marketing prowess; she takes to the air to broadcast her love for Simon and in doing so unwittingly, raises unmitigated demand for his vegetables.

Simon’s feelings towards Sylvia morph; ultimately blossoming into adoration, although I’m not sure his affection for her is one hundred per cent true love or a more lusty mixture of gratitude and admiration for her determination and incidental promotional assistance. Either way, harmony amongst the fruit and veg is restored in this feel-good tale of love and yes, live and let live doctrine.

Christine Sharp 2 Sharp dedicates Sylvia ‘for the growers, gardeners and lovers of green’, but kids aged 3 – 6 years and above will get a kick out of the swirling text and close up, eye-level drama taking place in the vegie patch, enriched by Sharp’s animated, eat-me illustrations. Presented without a hint of gloss on matt, buff brown pages, each vegetable and invertebrate detailed adds a dynamic, organic quality to the story. Edible species are easily identifiable however children not familiar with ultra-fresh produce, the kind that comes with roots or grows on vines, can easily match narrative descriptions with the cross-section, above-below-ground pictures Sharp includes.

Carrots and coloured chards zing; purple-hearted cabbages hum under the moon’s midnight glow; all begging to be gobbled up, which Sylvia does – a lot. Particularly pleasing is the spread depicting how parsnips, beetroot and broccoli can actually be transformed into bowls of steaming soups, succulent salads and delectable smoothies, providing solid positive visual links for youngsters and promoting healthy attitudes. Great ‘thinking-outside-the-vegie-box’!

Sylvia illos 2At the very heart of it all is Christine’s great love of nature and sustained organic gardening. She states that, “In a world of large-scale commercial food growing practices that are often unkind to our health and the health of the planet, growing at home or buying from the local growers’ market can promote wellbeing and create community, while taking care of the Earth.’

For kids who find wonder where adults often only see wilt and woe, Sylvia is a marvellously refreshing avowal that tiny things really do matter. Makes me kind of, sort of, almost love snails too – well Sylvia at least. Snap up this garden fresh release here.

UQP September 2014

 

On My Bedside Table – # 3

Bedside Table books-lamp-diyBack by popular demand, the bedside table revelations of our literary heroes and heroines or as some of us like to address the towers of teetering titles yet to be tackled, the TBR List – To Be Read List. Be it on the bookshelf, coffee table, lounge room floor or humble little bedside cube like mine; where ever you stash your next-in-line-to-read reads, have a look through these. You might just have to make another pile.

Today we ask the burning question: Do illustrators make time to read? If so, who is it that these arty types curl up with and why…the answers are illuminating.

Sarah Davis SARAH DAVIS Multiple award winning children’s book illustrator who is as much at home drawing ghosts as bulldogs and is half the creative heart of the divine Violet Mackerel. A multitasking legend!

 Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which is gripping – I can’t quite work out what her magic trick is for making her characters and situations so vivid and immediate.

Middlemarch by George Eliot for the third time, because I’d been thinking a lot about Mr Casaubon and Dorothea recently and wanted to go visit them again.

 Hiding in Plain Sight – Confessions of a Sociopath by M. E. Thomas, because I’m interested in abnormal psychology.Confessions of a sociopath

 Shriek by Jeff Vandermeer – set in the freaky crumbling surreal city of Ambergris beneath which lurk sentient fungi. (My upstairs book for when I take lunchbreaks)

I’m reading a chapter of To Kill A Mockingbird aloud to the kids every night, and usually listening to Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita on audio book while I work, although I’ll occasionally take a break to listen to podcasts.

I’ve got a story by Isobelle Carmody all lined up to listen to while I paint tomorrow.

And am dipping in and out of Pablo Neruda’s Residence on Earth.

When I’m stuck on the train or in a queue with nothing to read, I’m getting through The Count of Monte Cristo on my iPhone.

I don’t know what I’ll read after all that… I’ll just see what jumps off the shelf at me, I suppose. Whatever it is, hopefully it doesn’t hit me on the head.

James Foley  JAMES FOLEY Writer, illustrator, cartoonist, and part time Viking. A man with multiple awards to his name as well and a disparaging multiple-pile problem.

More Than This by Patrick Ness. Like the Chaos Walking Trilogy and A Monster Calls, this is incredibly suspenseful storytelling. Mr Ness strings you along, throwing questions at you but only giving the barest slivers of answers each chapter. The ending felt unfinished and under defined, but I guess that’s par for the course in a book about the (possible) afterlife.

I got some great left-field comics for my birthday, both from Nobrow Comics: Adventures of A Japanese Businessman by Jose Domingo and Dockwood by Jon McNaught.Adventures of a Japanese Businessman

I also topped up my Hellboy collection with a new trade paperback, The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo and Dave Stewart – there’s some insanely good pen and wash technique in there.

One Soul by Ray Fawkes – The best graphic novel I’ve read this year – 18 separate characters living in different time periods have their life stories told in parallel. Each double page spread is arranged into 18 panels (6×3), with each character having their own panel.

But wait, there’s more! My recent picture book acquisitions: My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood; I am Cow Hear Me Moo by Jill Esbaum and Gus Gordon.

Skullduggery Pleasant: Dying of the Light by Derek Landy; my current read.

There, done! Ooh! Ooh! On one of my bedside reading piles is Deb Fitzpatrick’s new one, The Break – it just came out last week

Christina Booth CHRISTINA BOOTH Enviable author illustrator whose latest picture book Welcome Home has just picked up the 2014 Environment Award for Children’s Literature. She hails from a small island to the south of Australia known as Tasmania and has a larger pile problem than James.

Christian explains: Well, to start with there are none on my table, you see, the pile became so large that I moved a big bookcase into my bedroom and that is where they now reside; my reading-to-do-pile, ever increasing,  those read and those in progress.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows highly recommended. As an author, I loved the banter between author and publisher and fans, and I learnt a lot about Guernsey, especially how they were occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

My Place Nadia Wheatley & Donna Rawlins This picture book is part of my apprenticeship in writing a time line PB.The People Smuggler

The People Smuggler by Robin de Crespigny, following the life and journey of a man accused in Australia as a People Smuggler and how he was used as an example in the courts at great cost to the country only to be found innocent. Robin is an award winning script writer and this book is her first written as a biography but using the first person approach. It is a good read, though it is emotionally charged.

I have attempted to read Rohan Wilson’s The Roving Party, which seems to be a great story set in my home state of Tasmania. Alas, what does my head in is the lack of speech marks in the text. It requires more concentration to sort out who is saying what for my tired brain to deal with at present. It sits there, waiting….

Every night I (also) read my Bible, so much to contemplate along with words of wisdom from C.S. Lewis, and some other writers who refer to the passages I read. This is the most read of my books.

Maus is always close by as well by Art Spiegelman. Re-visited, browsed and remembered. One of the books that has changed me…. (Wonderfully tactile in hard cover with fabric spine).

There is a manuscript in varying stages in a folder that I review and reread, it’s almost there now; I’m starting to dream it instead.

On my ‘to get to ASAP’ list is Morris Gleitzman’s Loyal CreaturesJohn Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is next for book club. The Roald Dahl Biography and also one on Michael Morpurgo await my attention. They are so patient with me, I want to read them all right now but alas, time isn’t my friend.

Phew! Is there anything they are NOT reading?! So it turns out, illustrators are just as voracious readers as the next bibliophile. Makes my pile of seventeen or so pale in comparison under the amber glow of my bedside lamp. Do any of these feature on your bedside table? So many books, not enough nights to get through them all…

Be further inspired. More great titles you may not have thought about adding to you pile from more great authors and illustrators.

Visit here and here.

 

 

 

 

Blog Blast! Review – Tottie and Dot

PHold on to your marshmallows because new girls on the block, Tottie and Dot, have invited us all to their megatabulous Blog Blast party. Today with the help of co-hosts, Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling, we celebrate the explosive launch of picture book, Tottie and Dot. And what a feast for the senses it is.

Tottie and Dot live side by side at numbers 36 and 38, in a retro-chic, bubble gum coloured world. Beneath skies of teal blue, they share a harmonious aqua and cerise hued friendship of marshmallow tea and apricot sandwiches, ‘side by side’. Even their pet pussycats frolic in neighbourly tranquillity.

tottie-and-dot-3-originalTheir slightly stepford-wives existence seems almost too peaceful to be perfect, although I stress this is more a reference to their spectacular domiciliary set up. There is nothing submissive or docile about these two bright characters. However, social calm is suddenly thrust into the spotlight of competition when Tottie has a radical change of heart and paints her house mauve.

Her benign act of home improvement sets off a chain of competitive one-up-man-ship attempts between her and Dot, until what begins as subtle rivalry between two friends escalates into riotous mayhem. Each is determined not to be outdone by the other.

Dishevelled and in disarray, Tottie and Dot collapse amongst the mess of their jealously realising that there is much more at stake than art deco garden ornaments and strings of butterflies. Their treasured friendship is on the line.

Tania McCartney 2 Tottie and Dot is the latest picture book deliciousness doled up by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling. As with their previous bestseller, An Aussie Year, Tottie and Dot effortlessly teams McCartney’s delectable dream-like story line with Snerling’s candy-luscious illustrations. Sweetly simple statements are anchored on full double page spreads with divinely drawn detail, right down to the tiny-tarred paw prints and gumball pebbled paths.Tina-Snerling-360px

Kids aged four and above will get a real sherbet flavoured blast from this picture book. It’s extreme in colour and action yet beneath the sugar coating, the idea that Tottie and Dot blog blast webfriendship is all-important fizzes away satisfyingly. Treat yourself to it soon.

But wait, the party’s not over yet! For more fun, insights on the book, reviews and interviews with its creators, check out this schedule or just click on the poster.It’s all happening TODAY and today only!

#tottieanddot

Tottie and Dot is available here now.

EK Books September 2014

 

 

Aussie New Releases To Look Forward To

There are several books by Australian authors being published in the last six months of the year that I’m really looking forward to, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is already out, and it’s Kate Forsyth‘s Dancing With Knives.  Set on a farm outside Narooma in NSW, Dancing With Knives is a rural murder mystery and a story about love and family secrets.

Rebecca James (author of Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage) is gearing up for the launch of Cooper Bartholomew is Dead in early October.  Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is a psychological thriller centred around the death of Cooper Bartholomew, and his group of friends, one of which is keeping a dangerous secret.

Kate Morton (author of The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper) is releasing her fifth novel in October this year and I’m so excited about it.  Untitled and simply called Book 5 for now, we don’t know what’s it’s about yet, but given she’s one of my favourite Australian authors, I’m sure it’s going to be a delicious page-turner.Matthew Reilly book cover The Great Zoo of China

Matthew Reilly is releasing a block-buster action monster-movie of a novel (his words) called The Great Zoo of China on 10 November.  China has discovered a new species of animal and is preparing to unveil their amazing find in the form of the largest zoo in human history.  The Chinese re-assure a media contingent invited to tour the zoo that it’s perfectly safe; however if Matthew Reilly is involved, you know that nothing’s ever safe.  You can click here to watch a short video of Matthew Reilly telling us about The Great Zoo of China, or pre-order it now and receive 30% off.

Candice Fox (author of Hades) featured here on the blog in January this year, and her latest book in the Bennett/Archer series Eden, is due out later this year.  Click here to read the Player Profile with Candice conducted by Jon Page.

Australian music personality Molly Meldrum has written a memoir called The Never Ever Ending Story, and is said to contain plenty of stories about some of the many rock and pop stars he interviewed throughout his career.  The Never Ever Ending Story is due to be released in November.

Another iconic member of the Australian music industry has to be John Williamson.  In the aptly named Hey, True Blue, John Williamson takes readers through his life story and his success as a singer.

So, that’s it from me, but what new Australian books are you looking forward to?

Author Interview with Wanda Wiltshire and giveaway of Betrothed and Allegiance

Please welcome Australian author Wanda Wiltshire to Boomerang Books. Thanks so much for joining us Wanda.

Congratulations on the launch of your YA novel Allegiance, the second in the Betrothed series. For those who haven’t read Betrothed, can you tell us a little bit about this fantasy series?
Thanks Tracey, it’s a pretty exciting time! The Betrothed series tells the story of Amy Smith, a 17 year old girl with serious health issues, school bullies and a strong feeling that she doesn’t belong. In the first instalment of the series Amy discovers her suspicions are true when she meets the drop-dead gorgeous Leif in what she believes are dreams. After telling Amy she is betrothed to him, Leif urges her to seek her true identity. Soon Amy learns that not only is her birth name Marla but that she is a faery – exiled from her homeland, Faera. Amy – who begins to think of herself as Marla – is swept up in the thrill of her discovery and comes to believe that the only hurdle to happiness is overcoming Leif’s father, the cold and callous King Telophy. She is soon to learn there is so much more to her new reality.

photoWhat’s your inspiration for the land of Faera?
Betrothed was the answer to a prayer and Faera came to me as part of that. It’s the kind of world I long to live in with aspects of it continually being revealed to me. Faera is not like any particular place I’ve seen, but I do occasionally catches glimpses of it in the real world – a shaft of sunlight falling through a lush forest, a beautiful display of colour as the sun goes down or an exquisite flower growing wild. It is a place of old forests, glittering rivers and majestic mountains. The Fae create their homes amongst this beauty but would no more destroy a tree to do so than tear off one of their own wings. Faera is not a perfect world, as Marla soon discovers, but one where the Fae share the resources, do what they love and work together.

Betrothed has been receiving fantastic reviews both in Australia and overseas, have you been surprised by how well it’s doing?
What truly surprises me is that I wrote Betrothed. In the beginning I never actually believed I could finish it, so writing ‘the end’ on the manuscript was one of the highlights of my life. To celebrate I had a tiny book made for my charm bracelet. Sometimes I twirl that little gold book in my fingers and have to pinch myself! What I’ve found with Betrothed is that the people who love it, really really love it. I can’t say I’m surprised about that because I feel exactly the same way. I’m not very surprised either that lovers of Betrothed are looking forward to finding out what happens next. Betrothed did end at a crucial moment, and I know if I were a reader I’d want to know.

Is Allegiance a stand-alone book or should readers seek to read Betrothed first?
Allegiance is the second in the Betrothed series and while I think it could be enjoyed on its own, readers will get much more out of it if they have read Betrothed first. Not only to be up to date with the story, but – love them or hate them – it’s through Betrothed we come to know the characters. We also see changes in Marla between the two books. In Betrothed she is completely dazzled by both Leif and Faera – to the point where she thinks of little else. In Allegiance the illusion of perfection is shattered. She discovers that all is not as it seems in the magical land of her birth. Nor is being betrothed to the Prince the fairy tale she imagined. Rather, she is faced with a series of challenges and obligations in her new life completely unknown in her former one. It remains to be seen how she will deal with them.

You’ve created a handmade bookmark to give to the winner of the giveaway below, can you tell us how this started? How did you start making bookmarks for fans of your books?
I love interacting with Betrothed’s fans. They give me such wonderful encouragement and feedback on all aspects of my writing – from my style to the characters, to the story itself. Making the bookmarks is a kind of connecting experience and a way I can show my appreciation for the support my readers give me – mostly through my author page on Facebook. And it’s a lot of fun too! I can see myself making bookmarks for each of the books in the series.

Are you still planning to write six books in this series?  What can you tell us about the next one?
Right from the start, I knew the beginning and the end of Betrothed. That hasn’t changed. However, as I’ve written Marla’s story, more and more details have been revealed to me. In that way the series has grown. When I started writing and realized her story wouldn’t fit into one book, I thought her adventures might fill two. Two very quickly became three, then four. Five and six came to me sometime later. Honestly, I can’t see the series growing any bigger than that. The seventh book will be a prequel and occurred to me when I started to get images of how the land of Faera and its first inhabitants came to be. As for the third book, I can tell you the title is Confused. I will also say that as different to Betrothed as Allegiance is, so too will be Confused to each of the books that came before it. Sound confusing? Stay tuned.

Anything else you’d like to share with Boomerang Books readers?
Only thanks for having me, Tracey. I hope readers of Marla’s story fall in love with it. If so, come and join me and other Betrothed lovers on my Facebook page. I think it’s a friendly place to be.


Giveaway Details

Prize: Wanda is giving away a copy of Betrothed, a copy of Allegiance and a handmade bookmark.

Eligibility: you must be an existing Boomerang Books member to be eligible for this giveaway.  (Not a member? Click here to join; it’s free and easy to create an online account).

To enter:  comment below and tell us what cause you would pledge your allegiance to.

Entries close: midnight, Thursday 31 July 2014

Winner announced: Wanda Wiltshire will help me to choose the winner which will be announced here on the blog.

Read a FREE extract of Betrothed, here, and click here to buy the book.

Read a FREE extract of Allegiance here, and click here to buy the book.

Double Dipping – Living with Dodos and Alice – Picture book reviews

In a world of dwindling attention spans and narrowing fields of vision, it may be argued that the gaps between past and present are so expansive there is no reason to traverse them anymore let alone acknowledge past discoveries or other people’s situations.

New Frontier Publishing ignores this argument, offering two new courageous storylines within two beautifully presented picture books both worthy of much discussion and fawning over.

Adorable AliceThe first is Adorable Alice by Cassandra Webb and Michaela Blassnig. At first glance this picture book feels and looks too pink and perfect to be promising then I noticed Alice, plucky and bright, striding confidently across the cover into her story. So I followed her.

Like many young children, Alice lives in the here and now moments of life. She likes doing ‘something different every day’. What makes the week in question so special is her self-appointed mission of sensory-deprivation. Almost without conscience thought, Alice explores her home each day in a different way; with her eyes closed, her arms tied, her nose blocked and so on. Deprivation of one sense sharpens her others, which she discovers increases her understanding and enjoyment of the world around her, in spite of her familiarity with it.

Evocative narrative descriptions reinforce comfortable associations so that the reader is able to link the sound of grandma chopping with the smell of peaches for instance. Spatial awareness is enhanced for the reader as Alice makes her way to Grandpa by ‘listening, feeling and smelling’.

The coupling of Blassnig’s bright and bouncy illustrations with Webb’s sensory-laden sentence structure introduces young readers to their five senses and the importance of empathy in a sympathetically simple and tactile way.

May 2014

Edward and the Great DiscoveryFollowing New Frontier Publishing’s penchant for picture books with little pre-amble but plenty of thought provoking action and consequence is the stimulating, Edward and the Great Discovery. This is Rebecca McRitchie’s and Celeste Hulme’s first foray into picture books and it seems they have hit pay dirt. It could have something to do with my Indiana Jones obsession or my fascination with Dodos or maybe it is just the kid in me still hoping to make that marvellous discovery in my own backyard someday, but I was thoroughly entranced by Edward’s tale.

Despite an impressive family pedigree of archaeology, Edward has never discovered a single thing of greatness. Until one night, after filling his backyard with craters chance bestows him with not only a wondrous scientific discovery but also a deeper understanding of true friendship.

McRitche writes with understated sincerity giving children just enough hope and daring to intrigue them whilst at the same time gently exposing them to the wonders of natural history. It is a story that is both exciting and touching.

Hulme’s expressive illustrations , pleasantly reminiscent of Terry Whidborne’s work, feature spade-loads of sensitive detail; cushions for Edward’s bird to land on, real red-knit scarf to share warmth and love with, minute gems hidden deep within reality.Edward and his Egg

It is these kinds of treasures that children adore discovering in picture books for themselves and is why this proposed picture book series is a priceless find for expanding the attention spans of 4 – 6 + year-olds. I for one cannot wait to see what new adventures Edward uses his extensive kit on. Then again, I’ve always been drawn to archaeologists…

June 2014

Review – I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess

OK, the child is back at school. It’s still primary school but we’re at the senior end now – the business end. No more coaxing along or mincing words.

Fortunately she still adores being read to, so every day we still share glorious minutes together in worlds garnished extravagantly with pictures. Yes, I am a staunch believer of there being no age limit for the enjoyment of picture books.

However the scope and theme of picture books that excite a mid-primary schooler are vastly different from those suitable for 0 – 5 year olds. I don’t often come across those types these days so discovering this little cutie is a real treasure.

Pretty Princess 2I admit I’m a bit of a Heath McKenzie fan. His illustrations are fairy floss for one’s eyes; sweet, adorable and dangerously moreish. I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess is the second picture book McKenzie has both written and illustrated and from the impossibly pink, love-heart festooned cover to the cuter than cute twist at the end, it exudes palace-loads of playful wit and charm.

6b416c0c0eef3ae8-PrettyPrincess04-05Our brown-eyed heroine wants to be a princess more than anything else in the world. Who doesn’t when they’re three-something?

Her dreams and imaginings overlay her everydayness as show by McKenzie’s clever pencilled outline illustrations.

Her wishes are soon answered by none other than a real-life pretty princess, who immediately embarks on the transformation of our heroine, aka, pretty princess wanna-be.

In a somewhat Pygmalion fashion, the haughty real princess pulls, primps and perfects Miss Wanna-be into a bonsai version of, well, herself.

b3b995b5165e4bee-PrettyPrincess12-13But what is the point of wearing so much make-up just to look perfectly ordinary? What is the point of pretty dresses if you cannot frolic and flounce about in them? What fun is a tea party if you cannot enjoy feasting with your friends? And shouldn’t you be allowed to dance like no one’s watching at all times?

Our little princess wanna-be also discovers handsome princes are not all they are cracked up to be so re-writes her own list of rules for being a pretty princess.

Heath McKenzie 2What I wanna know is how McKenzie taps so succinctly into the female pre-schoolers’ psyche. He draws and writes ‘little girl’ with blinding accuracy and has created a narrative that smacks with comical imperialistic overtones. Perhaps he has secret pretty princess yearnings too.

I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess is a slightly precocious, very pink, fabulously frothy, floaty picture book that any self-respecting young 3 year old (girl especially) will simply fawn over.

Perfect for sharing with pre-schoolers and those who really do want to know what it takes to be a princess.

You can find out first here.

Scholastic Press February 2014

 

Doodles and Drafts – A not-so-BLAH Blog Tour with Karen Tyrrell

In the time I spent crewing at sea, I endured several disabling bouts of seasickness. Once established, it’s a difficult malaise to throw off. The one thing that helped (besides boxes of seasick tablets) was knowing that others were suffering as well, often far worse than I. Have you ever encountered that? Symptoms (of nausea) miraculously evaporate in the presence of one who is experiencing worse than you. It’s empowering in a uniquely weird human kind of way.

Bailey Beats the BlahA similar change of physical and mental state occurs in the young protagonist in Karen Tyrrell’s debut picture book, Bailey Beats the BLAH.

Tyrrell noted for her work on speaking up and out for mental health awareness, is keen to tackle the issues surrounding the mental well-being of our young people. Depression and its associated ills can plague children as young as six, undermining their self-esteem, confidence and emotional security.

Karen TyrrellNobody readily embraces the discord change and upheaval produces and being friendless at school can be a catalyst for such dread. Bailey experiences not only this but a myriad of other anxieties and fears accumulating in a colossal feeling of BLAH.

‘Sad days’ become his norm. Self-dislike, apathy, paranoia and discontent appear his closest companions, even after Fuzzy, his dog, tries to intervene. We eventually learn that all Bailey really wants is a friend, someone to share his solitude and banish his despair. Turns out, the new kid, Tom, is more prone to ‘seasickness’ so to speak, than Bailey. Forgetting his own discomforts or perhaps recognising the need to help Tom overcome his, Bailey allows Tom into his world. Together they find a common link and forge a salving friendship.

‘Dramatically speaking, intent is everything’* and Tyrrell’s unabashed use of force-filled verbs leaves no doubt as to the degree of sadness weighing so heavily on Bailey. The leaden seriousness of Bailey’s situation is thankfully beautifully balanced by the cartoonisque illustrations of Aaron Pocock.

Aaron Pocock at work
Aaron Pocock at work

His upbeat portrayal of Bailey has busloads of eye-popping kiddie appeal while the use of bright colours and thoughtful visual detail allows us to feel all of Bailey’s glumness and pain without being overwhelmed by it.

Bailey Beats the BLAH’s no frills approach and design ensures there is no ambiguity in its message to young readers and carers: that we can all suffer bad, sad days no matter whom or how old we are, but we need never suffer alone.

Perfect for 4 – 8 year olds, this picture book will be useful as a discussion tool in counselling and early education situations.

Digital Future Press October 2013

*The Art of Racing in the Rain-Garth Stein

Bailey Beats the Blah launch Oct 2013Embracing the cause to share important life messages through the medium of picture books, I was honoured to officially launch Bailey Beats the BLAH with Karen Tyrrell and a colourful cast of characters at the Black Cat Book Shop recently and managed to pull her aside to answer a few quick questions. Here’s what she had to say…

Q Karen, this is your first picture book. What prompted you to focus on the mental well-being of children as its topic?

When I was a teacher, parents at my school harassed me until breaking point. Luckily I recovered, becoming a mental health advocate, passionate about teaching resilience skills. After the success of my breakthrough memoirs, ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness and ME & HIM: A Guide to Recovery I wanted to create a picture book to empower kids with bounce-back-ability.

Q You’ve worked for many years as an educator of children. Is Bailey’s character, based on anyone you know personally or from you own experiences as a child?

I’ve taught many kids like Bailey. Sad, stressed-out or withdrawn kids are becoming far too common in our over-stressful and pressurized world.

Q Is Bailey a character you see tackling other kid issues in future picture book stories? What’s next for Bailey?

I’m developing MORE picture books to empower children to live happier, healthier and more functional lives.

Q What’s on the draft table for Karen Tyrell? More self-help, another picture book?

I’m working on two mental health books: A chapter book for mid-graders plus a fiction novel for teenagers. Both books encourage young people to deal with their mental health issues they encounter at home and at school.

Q If you could pass on one golden piece of advice to kids like Bailey who are suffering BLAH days, what would it be?

Don’t suffer alone. Reach out to others: your friends, your family, your teacher to help you overcome those BLAH days.

Kids, you hold within yourselves all the POWER you need to stamp out the BLAH.

Q What’s one thing on your non-writing wish list you’d like to tick off?

My dream is to return to school as an author-teacher, to share Bailey Beats the BLAH, helping children and their families to turn their BLAH into ha-ha-ha!

Thanks Karen for sharing your dreams and passion with Boomerang.

Why not join Karen as she bops around the cyberphere on tour with Bailey. Scroll down for a chance to win a great prize or two. Simply leave a comment and you are in the draw to win!

Bailey Blog Tour & Book Giveaway

3rd Nov http://www.creativekidstales.com.au/authors/pitch-ya-book/pitch-ya-book.html

4th Nov http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

5th Nov http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au

6th Nov http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

7th Nov http://www.robinadolphs.com/blog/

8th Nov

9th Nov www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au

10th Nov

11th Nov http://squigglemum.com

12th Nov http://www.nickyjohnston.com.au/blog/

13th Nov http://nccparentsplace.wordpress.com/

14th Nov http://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com/

15th Nov http://natashatracy.com/topic/bipolar-blog/

16th Nov http://buginabook.org/category/childrens-books/

17th Nov http://www.writeawaywithme.com/blog/

18th Nov http://angelasunde.blogspot.com

Bailey Beats the Blah Book Giveaway

WIN: Copies of Bailey Beats the Blah, a signed Bailey artwork by illustrator Aaron Pocock and a picture book assessment with chief editor at Book Cover Café.

Leave a comment on any of the 16 hops on the Bailey Beats the Blah tour Nov 3rd -18th. The more comments you leave the MORE chances to WIN.

WINNERS announced on Nov 20th at www. karentyrrell.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – A Swim in the Sea

My first foray into the sea was a moment in time I remember as vividly as a blistering Aussie summer sky. It was in the surf off Magnetic Island in a sea a mere metre high but to a person of toddler stature, the waves were mountainous. It was a character building exercise my mother seemed intent on, not relinquishing her grip on my wrist for a minute. As she dragged me further in, my apprehension escalated and I begged her not to let go.

A Swim in the SeaHowever high expectations can assuage fear and doubt and in A Swim in the Sea, Bruno experiences all these sensations. Bruno has never been to the beach before. He can’t wait for Mum and Dad to have breakfast and pack the car. He is simply busting to get there and searches excitedly for his first glimpse of ‘the big blue sea’.

At first it is every bit as exhilarating as he anticipated; all ‘sizzling sand’ and ‘salty breezes’. But Bruno’s enthusiasm soon ebbs as he is confronted by his first wave and alas, like me, is slightly overwhelmed and terrified by the huge, ‘white foamy wave monster’.

All that sparkled minutes before becomes dark and threatening for Bruno and no amount of exotic sea-creatures or rock pool treasure can entice Bruno out from his dread until his sister, Tessa, enlists him to help build the wall for the family sand castle.

Perhaps Bruno is feeling a little sheepish after his encounter with the big blue sea. Maybe it’s the sensuous feeling of the sand as he digs that lures him out of hiding. Or it might just be being part of a team that helps Bruno finally regain his sense of purpose and fun because soon the castle is enclosed with a magnificent wall, strong enough and high enough to withstand any rougue wave…almost.

This pic attributed to The Illawarra Mercury
This pic attributed to The Illawarra Mercury

 

A Swim in the Sea is as enjoyable to read as licking a cone-full of gelato. Sue Whiting neatly avoids the usual beachside unmentionables such as sea lice, sunburn, stingers and sand in your togs in favour of the less tangible emotions of excitement and anxiety. The naivety Bruno possesses not only fuels his expectations but also foments his apprehensions into something almost too gigantic for him to deal with; as gigantic as the ocean itself. Just as Bruno has us teetering on the edge of fear, Whiting draws us back with reassuring images of backyard paddle pools and ‘sparkly blue jelly’, images that any kid, even those who’ve never breathed in the briny scent of the sea before, can relate to.

The beguiling acrylic paintings used by Meredith Thomas to illustrate Bruno’s adventure swirl and surge across the pages providing bucket-loads of textural depth and fluidity.A swim in the Sea Jelly spread

I especially love Bruno’s faithful little unnamed brown dog who mirrors every moment of Bruno’s pleasure and pain, and ultimately relishes his swim in the sea as much as Bruno.

A Swim in the Sea is a superb little slice of summertime fun and perfect to read with pre-schoolers, beach lovers and those still slightly wary of the surf like me.

Because overcoming your fear and enjoying the moment is often just a matter of letting go, which thankfully my mother didn’t.

Check out more of Sue Whiting’s books and buy A Swim in the Sea here.

Walker Books October 2013

 

Review – The Boy on the Page

A children’s book reviewer’s recent proclamation to ‘only review good books from now on’ got me wondering. What constitutes a good children’s book?

Is it something that causes your mouth to twitch into happy crescent-moon-shapes with each page turn? Is it a bubble bath for your heart, leaving you awash with warm joy? Or does it seize hold of your senses so tightly you forget to breathe? Perhaps it alters your understanding in some inexplicably magic way so that you feel you are living in a world infinitely more meaningful than the one you were in before you opened it?

The Boy on the PageEnter The Boy on the Page and discover a book that does all this and more.

This is an exceptionally good picture book. Employing flawless intent with exquisite subtlety, author illustrator, Peter Carnavas, ushers us along one small boy’s life journey as he attempts to fathom that most ponderous of human dilemmas: the meaning of life. It’s a rather weighty concept for young readers but Carnavas’ signature, sparse narrative style allows the reader to drift across the pages with minimal effort and maximum reward. I find the text as alluring and intense as the scent of summer jasmine. It is pure pleasure to inhale this boy’s story.

The boy, whom my seven year old declared to be Peter himself, lands one day on a page, previously unadorned and bereft of colour and life. Gradually, ‘things start to grow…’ and so does the boy. He experiences a myriad of miraculous life moments. He plants trees, rides horse, even plays the accordion. He climbs mountains, saves lives and puts out fires.

He finds love and repeatedly encounters the enormity of the world around him in the most unassuming of places. Yet one thought plagues him; why he landed on the page in the first place. In order to find the answer, he makes a dramatic decision; to try something he’s never tried before. How far he leaps, where he lands and what he discovers is all part of the spellbinding magic of this beautiful tale.

Peter Carnavas Peter Carnavas’ adroit use of white space and heart-melting water colour illustrations convey compassion and humility in a way young readers can easily comprehend and love and dare we hope, emulate. Gentle suggestions bubble to life through all that surrounds the boy; all those he ever loved and cared for. Is it pure whimsy or for higher purpose that we exist? What does happens next? Or are we simply here because, as assured to me by Miss 7, ‘we were made and that’s it.’

She may be right. Joyfully, like most young of mind and of heart, the Boy on the Page is dripping with sincerity without undue sentimentality and is utterly enchanting to experience. Share it with someone you love to read with or simply savour this ‘good read’ on your own.

Suitable for readers 5 – 10 years and those seeking transcendent meanings in life… Oh and we love little pig’s presence too!

View more of Peter Carnavas’ work here.

Queenslanders will have a first-hand opportunity to meet Peter Carnavas when he launches The Boy on the Page this weekend at the Avid Reader Book shop, Brisbane. Sunday 20th October at 10.00 am.The Boy on the Page launch Avid Reader

New Frontier Publishing September 2013

 

On the warpath with Tania McCartney and her Eco Warriors – Blog Tour Review

eco warriors coverStep outside into your garden or even local parkland. What do you see? Is it a verdant, vibrant paradise or neglected virtual wasteland? Today I am ecstatic to be on the war path with fellow lover of nature, kids and books, the luminous Tania McCartney. With more books blooming to life this year than a golden wattle in spring time, Eco Warriors to the Rescue!, stands tall and proud amongst them encapsulating the best of backyard adventure, magic and the preservation of our astonishing native flora.

Quintessentially named school-kids, Banjo, Matilda and Ned, are on a bit of a botanical mission. As self-appointed eco warriors with a goal to keep our native plants thriving for generations to come, they wisely consult their big book of Aussie flora and fauna. They become magically entwined within its pages smothered with splendiferous botanical paintings.

Eco Flame treesTheirs is a journey of enlightenment, discovery and wonder as they interact with such native gems as the kangaroo paw, blue quandong and my favourite, the flame tree. Each encounter reveals a basic fact, crucial to the long term survival of not only that species but our native environment as a whole. Young readers are introduced to the holistic ideology that plants, like animals, need much more than just clean water to flourish. Things like polluted bushland, introduced animal species, unregulated development and even unthoughtful behaviour like picking native flowers can dramatically affect the existence of our wild-flora.

This might seem like a heavy message to impart on young children but it is carefully implied with the clever use of real life images; our little warriors are visually shown as real people with beating hearts and souls and thus are completely believable as the executers and educators of the tips and tricks offered to us (and thoughtfully numbered throughout). Most resplendent in this joyful showering of information is the final notion that the ultimate thing we can do for our native plants is to ‘enjoy!’ them. So we should and so we can with Eco Warriors.

Tania McC McCartney considerately includes plenty of ways to think about and embrace our native plants with the inclusion of maps, links, explanations and even a list of native birth flowers. Her fertile, design-bejewelled mind  beautifully harmonises crisp, clear dialogue with the multi-media used throughout this picture book. I’m no expert in this field but recognise a good spread when I see one. (You can learn more about the design and layout behind this beautiful book at Angela Sunde’s blog).

Eco Warriors to the Rescue! packs a punch for all the right reasons. This book has a lovely ‘dirt girl’ feel and robust design with thick glossy pages (notably printed on paper from sustainable forest resources) and is more than suitable for repeated discussion, field trips and reads; outdoors perhaps, sprawled on the grass, gazing up through the branches of a flame tree aglow with carmine, campanula blooms. Botanical metaphors aside, McCartney has cultivated yet another work of art, which kids all over Australia and beyond will have fun reaping.

National Library of Australia August 2013

Join Tania McCartney and her three real-life eco warriors—Banjo (Riley), Ned (Andrew) and Matilda (Claire)—as they launch Eco Warriors to the Rescue! at Canberra’s National Arboretum Gift Shop, Saturday 5 October 2013, at 11am.

Can’t wait till then? Then stick around and visit some more of her exciting blog tour stops where you can learn more about the book and how to become an Eco Warrior.

Eco Warriors Blog Tour FINAL

View this book and purchase on line here.

Blog Tour Dates and Places

Sunday 1 September

Sneak Peek

Tania McCartney’s Blog

taniamccartney.blogspot.com

 

Review

Boomerang Books Blog

blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

 

Giveaway

Pass It On

jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/school-magazine

 

Mixed Media Illustrations for Picture Books

Angela Sunde

Under the Apple Tree

 

Monday 2 September

 

Book Review

Book Giveaway

Kids Book Review

kids-bookreview.com

 

Eco Tips for Little Readers

Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog

sherylgwyther.wordpress.com

 

Bringing Up Eco Warriors

The Book Chook

www.thebookchook.com

 

Review

Books for Little Hands

booksforlittlehands.blogspot.com.au

 

Literature Supporting Sustainability

Children’s Books Daily

www.childrensbooksdaily.com

 

Author Interview

Alison Reynolds

www.alisonreynolds.com.au

 

Tuesday 3 September

 

Giveaway

My Little Bookcase

www.mylittlebookcase.com.au

 

Review

5 Multi-Media Writing Tips

DeeScribe

deescribewriting.wordpress.com

 

Review

Writing for the National Library of Australia

BuzzWords

buzzwordsmagazine.com

 

Review

Elaine Ouston Blog

elaineoustonauthor.com

 

Review

Giveaway

Soup Blog

soupblog.wordpress.com

 

Doodles and Drafts – Shifting through the Haze with Paula Weston

Paula WestonIt’s not that I’m not fond of paranormal spec-fiction; it’s just a genre that happens to feature much further down on my reading list – picture books dance all over them in fact. But when Queensland author, Paul Weston announced the release of her first YA novel, I was simultaneously intrigued and fascinated and then, pleasantly surprised.

Shadows, Book 1 in the Rephaim series, is a tale easy to warm to. Paula’s brisk and breezy writing style ensures a tight, zippy read. Her feisty characters, both human and non-human, imbue each page with snappy dialogue, witty innuendo, and believable outcomes. Exhilarating action is balanced beautifully with brief ‘shifts’ of reflection and pace that enables the reader to be fully drawn into Gaby Winters’ confused new world of Fallen Angels, Hellions and demons – The Rephaim. The course and cheeky interplay between Gaby and rogue, would-be saviour, Rafa, provides just enough romantic conjecture to stimulate ones carnal curiosities while the lightly seasoned scenery possesses a delicious sense of tropical Aussie atmosphere. I became so engrossed in Gaby’s pursuit of answers; about her brother Jude, and about her half-angel self that the end came all too soon.

And so I’ve been cunningly lured into the realm of the Rephaim. Looks like paranormal fiction has just moved further up my list.

HazeTo honour the spot I’ve reserved for the second instalment in the Rephaim series, Haze Book 2 due for release 22nd May, I have the author here herself to share a bit more about her paranormal fascination and, her obsession with the Foo Fighters.

Q Why paranormal spec-fiction? What is the attraction for writing this in genre?

A: I like the idea that there’s more to the world than we can see, and paranormal (and urban fantasy, magical realism etc.) stories provide plenty of scope to explore that in a contemporary setting. For me, it enhances the escapism to have a story with other-worldly elements set in a very recognisable world. There are endless ways to be creative with mythology and world building – and it’s a lot of fun!

Q Do you have favourites? If so list your favourite read of all time, holiday spot and season of the year and why.

A: I have a long list of favourite books across genres, but if we’re talking spec-fic particularly…The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and – of course – The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.

My favourite holiday spot is Turin in Italy in autumn. It’s a beautiful city with amazing history and buildings, has incredible food and wine, gorgeous countryside nearby, friendly people, and it’s not as overrun with tourists as other major Italian cities. It’s in the Piedmont region (just like the Sanctuary in the Rephaim series).

Q Who / what inspired the characters in the Rephaim series?

A: The series started with an idea about a girl and guy with a complicated history that only he remembers. There was an attraction between them, but if he took advantage of that, he knew there would be serious ramifications if/when she got her memories back. I knew there were paranormal elements in how she lost her memory, and that the two of them were caught up in a bigger conflict. I’m also a huge fan of Joss Whedon (particularly his Buffy, Angel and Firefly series) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural), so it’s fair to say their writing and TV shows inspired me.

Q If you could ‘shift’ with anyone, who would you choose and where would you shift to?

A: I would shift with Murray (my husband) and visit our family around Australia. And then we’d go to Turin!

Q Before signing your two-book deal with Text Publishing, did you have all four books in the series clearly thought out in your mind, or already on paper?

A: Yes, I had roughly plotted out the four books (and had a rough draft of Haze, book 2). The lovely people at Text were aware there were four books in the series when I was offered the initial two-book contract. As a new writer, getting even a two-book contract was a pretty big deal. Text then made the offer for books 3 and 3 the week before Shadows was published, which was a huge moment for me.

Foo FightersQ How many times have you been to a Foo Fighters concert? How does their music, affect what you are working on?

A: I have been to two Foo Fighters concerts. Both were awesome, but my favourite was the River Stage concert the guys did at the Botanic Gardens after the Brisbane floods. It was a more intimate and chatty show and they played a lot of album tracks – it was a concert for hard-core fans. Loved it!

I don’t listen to music when I’m writing, but I do listen to the Foo Fighters when I’m driving and I find it gets the ideas flowing – particularly if I’ve struck a brick wall with a particular scene. There’s something about the heavier tracks that hits me in the chest and helps me find the mood for fight scenes – or finding Gaby’s voice when she needs to be resilient. But at the same time, the Foo Fighters’ acoustic, gentler tracks can also help me channel a more vulnerable voice.

Q What was the most despised thing you’ve ever found in your school lunchbox?

A: My mum used to make me cheese and jam sandwiches, which I really didn’t like. Now I eat brie and quince paste on ciabatta which is kind of the same thing…Turns out my mum was ahead of her time!

Q Do you think childhood happenings shape your adult writing voice and style? Have yours? Share one moment from your past which has direct bearing on your present.

A: Experiences in my teenage years have shaped how I approach stories, but I think reading hundreds of books over the years (then and since) nourished the storyteller in me, and helped me find my own voice and style. I was an often angry and rebellious teenager and I’ve definitely channelled some of that for Gaby’s voice in the Rephaim series. For reasons that become apparent through the series, Gaby often feels like an outsider and tends to deal with that through anger and sarcasm. I often felt like I didn’t fit in (as most teenagers do at some point) – I still do at times – so that voice is usually easy to find.

Q Tell us what we can expect from Book 2 and Paula Weston.

A: Haze (out 22 May), has more twists and turns and some answers. Readers can expect to learn more about the Rephaim (particularly the Outcasts), more about Gaby’s twin brother Jude, and more about Gaby’s past. There’s more action, more secrets revealed, and the Rephaim discover something that threatens all of them. And, of course, there are some interesting developments for Gaby and Rafa.

Both books published by Text Publishing – Haze Book 2 available from 22nd May 2012.

Review – Somebody’s House

Somebody's House PBHave you ever wandered down your street and wondered who shares it with you? Do you like to let your curiosity conjure up interesting occupants based entirely on the external appearance of a dwelling? I do. I’m not sure if young children do this as consciously as us more questioning grown up types but Katrina Germein’s newly released picture book, Somebody’s House, allows them to do just that, and absolutely guilt-free.

At the bottom of a little girl’s town by the sea is ‘a long, looping street’. I immediately want to visit this street and find out who we’ll meet. As the little girl drifts along it, she passes houses of every size and description and colour. She catches glimpses of the occupants’ lives from the objects she spies in their gardens or poking out of windows or perched up in trees. Each page poses the enigmatic question, ‘who do you think is inside?’

The speculative answers are the result of her assumptions and vivid imagination and, quite possibly true, although I’m not sure if scarf-knitting ewes and high-heel wearing peacocks are your run-of-the-mill suburban types.

Katrina GermeinIt doesn’t matter a pip because this is a joyful exploration of colours and rhythms, and shapes and forms that will entertain readers from 0 – 5 years and give beginner readers hours of fun as they navigate their way through the musical text.

It’s easy to wax lyrical about picture books when the words sing and the illustrations bombard the senses with tons of movement and bouncing detail. Somebody’s House does precisely that. A comfortable familiarity grew each time I revisited ‘somebody’s’ street yet I was delighted to continually find something new and quirky to smile at.

Anthea Stead’s exuberant use of acrylics, oil pastels and sgraffito* saturate the pages with a festival of colour and patterns. There is enough going on to attract young readers back for a second look again and again and the use of subtle visual clues not only adds to the whimsicality of the story but allows them to deduce who lives inside each house.

Known for her straightforward and honest way of sharing life’s truths with children, Germein has created a beautiful picture book that reinforces one’s sense of belonging and sense of place, while lightly alluding to the marvellous diversity of society and family types that exist all just metres away from one’s own front door.

Recommended for 3 – 6 year olds and anyone curious about their neighbours.

For those lucky enough to be living in Adelaide, pop along to the Lobethal Markets nestled in the Adelaide foothills on Sunday the 19th of May for the official launching of Somebody’s House.

Somebody's House Launch

• Sgraffito is a painting style that uses painted layers and ‘scratching’ techniques to create an image. This technique can be used on walls, ceramics and paper or canvas.

 Walker Books Australia May 2013

 

Review – Grandpa’s Gold

GGoldOnce upon a time, not long ago, unearthing quality crafted, self-published children’s books was like fossicking for gold. They were out there, but often buried under layers of fools’ gold. Grandpa’s Gold is one of the genuine gems.

For me, one of the greatest rewards of being a parent is being able to share the world’s wonders and its treasures with your offspring. Heading off on adventurous travel, although beset with obvious challenges, creates unimaginable, lasting memories for young and old alike. Seasoned children’s author, Robin Adolphs, has struck gold with this slick, memorable story about a young boy and his grandfather sharing such an adventure.

Jake has a Grandpa who possesses a 4WD and the ancient ability to read maps. Best of all, he knows how to find gold. He and Jake set off one day in search of it. Along the way, Grandpa reveals just how elusive the precious metal is and how tricky it is to find. Jake is fascinated to learn that if he listens hard enough for a ‘kind of WHOOP-WHOOP noise’, gold won’t be far away.

They set up camp in the goldfields. Jake hears many noises that first night but none of them the WHOOP-WHOOP of gold. That is until Grandpa introduces Jake to the mysteries of a metal detector. Jake is spell-bound by it, having had ‘no idea the earth was so noisy’.

Each buzz, crackle and whirr prompts them to stop and dig. Soon Jake’s pockets are bulging with treasures: a rust billy can, an old hob-nail, a broken horseshoe, even the head of a pick-axe; relics of a yesteryear all too wonderful for a small boy to leave behind. Grandpa’s efforts are less fruitful until he relinquishes the detector to Jake. WHOOP-WHOOP! ‘And there is was. Gold!’

This appealing tale transported me back to the time I spent fossicking the gem fields of west Queensland. Miles and miles of Brigalow scrub, rocky outcrops and the promise of stumbling across the next pink sapphire kept me there for a spell. Fossicking for one’s fortune is an addictive occupation only the human race has bothered to adapt for; only we can devote countless hours to sifting through barrows of scree, tediously sluicing gallons of mud or blowing up mountains in search of something so ridiculously small and shiny in comparison to the huge, dirty effort expended looking for it.

Robin AdolphsRobin Adolph’s story suggests there is more to be gained from the quest itself than the find. (She’s right. There is something almost therapeutic about time spent this way.) Grandpa and Jake share much more together than plain old greed. They experience the thrill of adventure, a shared camaraderie and those marvellously unquantifiable feelings of anticipation and inflated expectation.

A winning picture book embraces many levels. Grandpa’s Gold does this in spades. This is cheekily represented in the last page spread with an alluvial multi-layering of treasures that Jake is determined to find one day.

Perhaps the best discoveries in Grandpa’s Gold for me are the illustrations of Arthur Filloy. Big, bold, cartoon-style drawings flood each page with sound and motion. Jake and Grandpa are depicted in beguiling caricature fashion. I particularly like the way the illustrations involve both pages with shales of rock, drifting clouds and nocturnal eyes appearing on pages of text– something not often found in self-published picture book offerings. The simple line drawings of an old timer from a by-gone era ‘using’ the treasures Jake mines on each opposite page are genius and help span a young reader’s understanding of the passing of generations.

But that’s not all. Ex-teacher Adolphs gives us one last reason to linger a little longer in search of hidden treasure – A did you find…Quiz at the back of the book. This was the clincher for my Miss 7, who declared Grandpa’s Gold as ‘a very cool book’. Eureka!

Recommended for 3 – 8 year olds as enthusiastically as heading off into the sunset in search of adventure with them.

Butternut Books April 2013

Adolphs’ other titles under Butternut Books include Yesterday I Played in the Rain and The Pile Up.

Lucky SE Queenslanders have a chance to experience all the fun of finding gold this weekend at the official launch of Grandpa’s Gold 13th April at Logan North Library 10.00am, Underwood, QLD

 

 

 

Review – The Windy Farm

I’m not big on wind. Of all the meteorological marvels on offer, it’s the least appealing to me, perhaps because I endured a few too many tropical cyclones and missing roofs as a child.

Windy Farm 2So when The Windy Farm blew onto my shelves, I instinctively hunched my shoulders and wondered what on earth could be so appealing about the latest offering by well-liked picture book team, Doug MacLeod and Craig Smith. Turns out a whole Beaufort Scales worth.

Our plucky young narrator lives with her family on the windiest farm on Windy Hill because it’s all they can afford. Their home is buffeted and bullied by incessant katabatic winds. The kind of wind that permanently bends trees into weird angles; the kind powerful enough to blow away young pigs and little girls. No one is safe from its force, no one except Grandpa who, as the illustrations subtly suggest, is so immense and heavy that he will never budge just like his favourite pig, Big Betty.

The family survive undeterred and, as is often the case, necessity becomes the mother of invention. And indeed this is the case; Mum cannily invents heavy metal shoes to anchor them all to the ground. However, in spite of their best efforts, one day they lose half their home to nature’s tempest.

Rich Uncle Jeff is no help, pointedly refusing to lend them any of his oil-amassed fortune to help fix the house. They resort to good old fashioned ingenuity and Grandpa’s power tools instead but the ensuing crippling power bill plunges them into despair (who hasn’t felt like this after receiving their electricity bill?)Windy Hill generators

Not easily defeated, Mum comes up with a wily plan; to convert the farm into a sustainable wind farm. Pretty soon things are on the up and up. The farm road is paved in tarmac and truckloads of money from all the electricity they’ve enterprisingly ‘farmed’. Big Betty, the prized pig, returns to a wind-proof sty (she was sold to pay the electricity bills) and although the need to wear heavy metal boots remains, their money worries have been swept away, just like Uncle Jeff who ‘became poor’ after the ill winds of fate blew his way. ‘Never mind,’ Grandpa sanguinely observes; no one really liked him anyway.

Doug MacLeod’s contemporary message about the power of wind and its significance in environmental sustainability drifts delightfully zephyr-like throughout this picture book. Told in a concise, witty style, The Windy Farm exposes young readers to a range of fascinating topics including the harnessing of energy, inventions, problem-solving, sustainability and endurance.Doug MacLeod

No stranger to children’s book illustrating, Craig Smith’s flamboyant, comic-book style pictures and characters are hysterical; from the very top of Windy Hill all the way down to the chooks’ little metal boots. He uses heavier gauche paint to create a deeply detailed yet fluid almost dreamy visual effect that sweeps from page to page. Movement (of the omnipresent wind), is represented magnificently with the use of acrylics. One can see and feel the air swirling through each scene. I found it astounding even though I’m not that big on wind.

Craig SmithSmith and MacLeod include lots of witty references to the use of nuclear power and the need to adopt a clean energy philosophy if we are to enjoy a longer, better existence than poor old Uncle Jeff.

The Windy Farm is not however a heavy prescriptive lesson in world conservation. Rather, it is a light-hearted, fanciful look at ingenuity and tenacity in their purest and funniest forms. My Miss 7 just thinks it’s very cool. Well it would be with all that wind about wouldn’t it?

Breezy, good fun, imaginative with plenty of room for thought. Plus 5s will love it even if they are not big on wind (but most are).

Available now.

Working Title Press February 2013

Janeen Brian – Part Two

Janeen 2Do you have an all time favourite book character you secretly aspire to be more like? Discover Janeen Brian’s

Q Who or what was your favourite book character as a child? If you could incorporate that character into one of your own stories, which would it be and why? How would you adapt that character to suit?

I wanted to be one of the girls in the Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven series, because, having few books in my childhood, I felt as if I personally knew the girls. But as well, they were up front characters who had adventures and were at time, quite gutsy. I liked that! I think many of my girl characters have some of those characteristics!

Q Which Aussie children’s book author do you admire the most and why?

How can any reader or writer answer that! I love the work of my friend and poetry colleague, Lorraine Marwood. Her words sing to me or shake me about. Her work is so real and yet, magical. A bit like her.

Q How long does it take you to develop a children’s story? Does the time vary dependant on the genre: picture book, MG novel, script etc.Eddie Piper

I have recently compiled an anthology of my poems, entitled, As long as a piece of string. That will have to suffice for my answer to that one, because as vague as it is, it’s the truth. Sometimes picture books can take as long to write as a piece of fiction. Of course, you’re not necessarily slogging at it for hours every day, but developing it, shaping it and re-writing it over time.

Q Do you write every day? What is the most enjoyable part of your working day?

It’s rare that I miss a day where I’m not writing, even if it’s just catching up on my diary.

I'm a Dirty DinosaurQ What inspires you to write like nothing else can?

Certain words; strong, emotional situations; a state of tranquillity.

Q Do you have a special spot or routine to make the magic happen or can you write anywhere, any time?

I work mainly in my home office; and each morning I prime myself by responding to emails and getting lots of admin out the way first. It’s also a way of letting my brain know that I’m here and we’re going to do something to do with writing or brainstorming. I do a lot of brainstorming. I don’t tend to start putting anything on the computer until I’ve written enough, using pen on paper, and have a physical feeling that that I’ve captured the voice of the character or that I’m ready to start.

Q What is that one thing that motivates you to keep on writing (for children)?

I love the creativity; the tumble and jumble of words and feelings; the constant astonishment that so much of what happens in your life can become the story for another and the fact children seem to like what I write.

Shirl at the Show JBQ Name one ‘I’ll never forget that’ moment in your writing career thus far.

So many! I think being a writer is full of surprises, but a recent one was winning the Carclew Fellowship in the 2012 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. The Fellowship awarded me a sizeable amount of money to further research and develop a three-in-one-project. When the phone call came to say that I’d won, my first reaction was that I was going to be told my application was disallowed because it involved three proposals, not one. But instead, I was told I’d won!

Q What is on the draft table for Janeen?

Three books due for release within the next six months – so, much admin, media promotion and launches to organise. The books are: A picture book for the very young, called I’m a dirty dinosaur. (illustrated by AnnMeet Ned Kelly James and published by Penguin group Australia). An Australian historical picture book for the young called Meet Ned Kelly (illustrated by Matt Adams and published by Random House) and an historical, adventure novel for upper primary, called That boy, Jack.(published by Walker Books) I also have a number of other projects out with my agent or publishers.

My next project will be another picture book. I have vague ideas, but will need to do more research first.

Can hardly wait. For a full list of this year’s releases visit Janeen’s website too.

Review – Meet…Ned Kelly

I have never felt so exposed by a picture book as I did when I first laid eyes on Meet…Ned Kelly. The piercing stare of Australia’s most infamous bush ranger peering from the slit of his armoured headgear sliced through to the very marrow of my bones, anchoring the outlaw’s stare there as if to say, Want to find out more? I did.Meet Ned Kelly

I’m not one to wallow in history for too long; but I do find it compelling discovering new threads that help me appreciate how the fabric of a nation, its people and their culture is woven together.

Random House’s new Meet…series allows young readers to be similarly fascinated by picture books that tell exciting true stories of the real women and men of Australia’s past. And what more exciting a character than Ned Kelly?

Prolific children’s author, Janeen Brian, introduces children to one of the best known, ill-understood, and extraordinary tales of early Australian history, that of Ned Kelly. The sometimes misleading mystic and romance of bushranging is forsaken in favour of a straight forward, chronological telling of the facts of Ned’s life beginning with his not-so-easy childhood and ending with his untimely death in the Old Melbourne Goal in 1880.

However the story is anything but dull and lifeless. Brian leads us through Ned’s brief life with an objective clarity told in simple and effective bush ballad style verse. Each stanza is suffused with sufficient detail to allow us to develop a strong sense of Ned’s character and the treacherous times he occupied, featuring often unbalanced and corrupt systems of justice.

Ned is portrayed as a fair, brave young man but one who often found himself on the wrong side of the law mostly by misfortune, poor judgement, and ill-luck. His recurring stints in goal and unpopularity with the police ensured he and his family were regular targets for prosecution. The gaoling of his mother in 1878 was the catalyst for the birth of the Kelly Gang.

The gang escaped capture numerous times thanks to Ned’s long standing reputation amongst good friends, but following betrayal and the final calamitous showdown at Glenrowan Inn in 1880, not even Ned’s genius iron-clad armour could protect him from his ultimate fate.Ned Kelly poster

It’s a stirring tale brought to life with the help of Matt Adam’s almost surreal illustrations that echo the lines and textures of a number of classic Australian painters and therefore add a rich authenticity to each scene. The font used throughout and for the timeline on the end pages reflects the feel of a wanted poster, many on which Ned’s name no doubt appeared.

I feel I better understand this young man, so vilified by the injustice of the day, after meeting him ‘face to face’ in Brian’s historic picture book. And I cannot imagine a more brilliant nor dynamic way for primary aged readers to explore our rich historic past.

Keep an eye out for my next post where we meet author Janeen Brian face to face and explore more about the author behind Meet Ned Kelly.

Random House Books Australia March 2013